Should You Convert Your Photos To DNG?

Upload from June 12, 2012


The world of digital photography changes FAST. It’s a fun and exciting time, with new gadgets coming out all the time. But as a digital shooter you need to think ahead to the future, and figure out how you can protect your images from the changing times!

If you’re not planning right, you might end up with an archive of images that you can’t even open. Uh oh. Read on to learn more about this subject, and how you can prevent that from happening to you!

Now, if you shoot in the RAW file format you may or may not have heard of the Digital Negative (DNG) format. The DNG is an open source RAW file format that was developed by Adobe and released in 2004. You might want to consider converting your RAW files to the DNG format as it offers some serious benefits!

The Benefits Of DNG

Future Compatibility

One of the problems in photography right now is that the vast majority of camera manufacturers have their own proprietary RAW formats. If you shoot Canon you might have noticed your RAW files end with .cr2, or with Nikon it’s .nef. These proprietary formats might be difficult to read in the distant future since the format hasn’t been openly documented and support from the manufacturer may not always be there. It’s hard to imagine not being able to open Canon or Nikon files today, but ten or twenty years from now who knows where those companies could be!

Since the DNG format (.dng) is open source anyone can write software to read or write the format. It’s not limited to Adobe software like Lightroom and Photoshop. Many different software developers support the DNG format (Apple Aperture for example).

There are also no license restrictions so camera manufacturers could use DNG as their default RAW format instead of their proprietary format. Some camera manufacturers like Leica and Hasselblad already capture in the DNG format. If (when) other camera manufacturers adopt a universal format in the future it’s highly likely it will be the DNG.

Smaller File Size

DNG files are around 15-20% smaller in file size than proprietary RAW files without any loss of quality! You also have the option to include the original proprietary RAW file in the DNG which effectively doubles the file size – though it’s not really necessary.

No XMP sidecar files

XMPs are metadata files that can exist next to the original RAW file (.xmp). They basically contain instructions about how the file should be processed. For example, if you’re using a program like Lightroom to edit your images, changes to adjustments like exposure and temperature could be stored in the XMP file. Because the XMP data is a separate file it can be an organizational challenge keeping the original RAW file and the XMP file together. It’s just messier having two files! With the DNG format the XMP data is included in the DNG file, so you don’t have to worry about the XMP data getting separated from the original DNG. Makes it quite a bit simpler to keep things organized!

Embedded file verification

The DNG format includes a checksum that can detect file corruption. With regular RAW files it can be impossible to detect file corruption. This is a pretty important archival feature for an image format to have.

Where You Can Convert To DNG

Using Lightroom you can convert to DNG right on import. Or you can select “Convert Photos to DNG…” from the Library Menu in the Library Module (see the image above). I would suggest converting to DNG after import as the conversion process does take a bit of time and seriously slows down import!

You can also use a stand alone DNG conversion tool.

Should You Convert JPEGs To DNG?

It is possible to convert JPEGs to DNG but it might not be necessary. JPEG is already a standard image format that will be compatible far into the future. By converting to DNG you do gain most of the benefits listed above but you also increase the file size a bit.

One big advantage is that by converting JPEGs to DNG you gain the non-destructive characteristic of RAW and DNG files. That means you can’t accidentally make adjustments that change the original file (the way you can with JPEGs). In my opinion the biggest reason not to convert JPEGs to DNG is that the JPEG format is already compressed and missing a ton of the original image data. It makes a lot more sense to capture in RAW and convert to DNG than to capture in JPEG and convert to DNG.

Our Approach

We shoot in the RAW format (Canon .cr2, Sony .arw). For our portrait sessions we convert all the selects to DNG for archival purposes (just the selects, not all the images captured during the session since it does take a bit of time to do the conversion). Converting selects might be something you want to consider if you’re a wedding or portrait photographer. For personal work we convert everything to DNG usually on import (if we’re importing a lot of images we’ll save conversaion for later). I’ve also been slowly and steadily converting previously captured images in our archive.

Our adoption of a DNG workflow has happened only recently, in the last year and half (since we started shooting with the Sony NEX). Shooting more personal work has made me think about the future of our image archive and best practices to ensure we can easily access our images 50 years from now!

Side Note: We don’t include the original RAW files when we convert to DNG and I haven’t run into any issues because of it. The only reason I’ve read about to include the original RAW file is if you’re converting to an earlier version of the DNG format where compat
ibility might be an issue – though I haven’t seen any problems reported. So far working with DNGs has been just as easy as working with proprietary RAW files. There’s no real difference in how you edit the files or the quality of the photos.

Do you convert your images to DNG? If not what’s holding you back? Let us know in the comments!

More About DNG

Are you interested in learning how to edit your photos in Lightroom 4? Then check out our Super Photo Editing Skills tutorial below.

Upload from June 06, 2012

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

Super Photo Editing Skills

Super Photo Editing Skills

Bring out the best in your photos with this step by step video guide to using Adobe Lightroom. Become an editing guru in just a few hours, or do it at your own pace.

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69 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Luke McCallum says

    Good article, I have just begun switching over to DNG from Canon Raw files, and usually do it on import to make the process simpler. For me it seems to take the same amount of time as a regular import.

    There are some neat new DNG features built into Lightroom 4, including Fast Load Data which helps your image previews come up quicker, which is reason enough to start using DNG. Check out this link for more info

  2. DNG is a sloppy standard. Moving from Lightroom to Aperture is far from garanteed (or is it the opposite) and if you keep the data you loose the edits (which would be the case with cr2 or nef anyways).

    It is not supported by most other raw editors and you can't convert back to raw (unless you embed the raw – resulting in a huge file!). So you would be locked into Lightroom of Photoshop by using DNG.

    Lastly, in certain case, the ultimate image quality will be possible with the manufacturers software. For example DPP (from Canon) has lens/camera correction features not available otherwise.

    Use DNG if you wish, but please, keep your original raw somewhere!

    • Hi Jeff,

      I hope you’re still around checking this site.
      2 QUESTIONS:
      Thank you for posting. Are there any other way to save your RAW files
      and where do you save your RAW files? This is the first for me. I shoot
      in RAW and JPEG, but I haven’t fool around with RAW until now. I finally
      was able to open in Adobe PS Elements 10. I started saving the RAW files
      to my external without embedding the original RAW file. Am I doing this
      right or are there smarter steps to take?

      Best Regards,
      [email protected]

    • You just said “It is not supported by most other raw editors and you can’t convert back to raw (unless you embed the raw – resulting in a huge file!)”. Could you tell me how to convert the DNG files back to RAW?

  3. Hey Jeff!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts!

    Good points about moving between Lightroom and Aperture. It would be nice if the adjustments made in either program were universal. But as you mentioned the same problem exists with .cr2, .nef, and other proprietary RAW files. Perhaps further adoption of DNG by camera makers and software developers would spur development of an interoperable DNG standard.

    Also a good point about not being able to convert back to the original raw format (unless you embed the original file). Though I'm not sure what you mean by most other raw editors not supporting DNG. Some of the most common raw editors (Lightroom, Aperture, Capture One, DxO, AfterShot Pro) all support the DNG format. So even though you can't convert back to the original raw file your choice of editors is pretty large. Of course it would be an issue if you wanted to use the camera manufacturer's software.

    Unfortunately I haven't tried Canon's Digital Photo Professional in quite a while so I can't comment on the lens / camera correction features for that program. However, the Lens Corrections panel available in Lightroom has been pretty good so far.

    Converting to DNG and replacing the original raw file was initially a tough decision to make. It is scary not being able to go back to the original raw. But for our workflow (using Lightroom) and the future security of our image archive I feel it's been a good decision for us that has been working great.

    • Rob,

      Like you, I’ve gone all-in on the DNG standard (since late 2009) for my workflow and even convert on import with acceptable speed. As with any technology issue, I keep looking back once in a while to see what people are talking about. One of the things I’m finding is that there are layers of “open” and it’s not so clear cut. I tried AfterShot Pro (I’m a former Bibble Pro user) and it supports DNG, but only DNG files captured in certain cameras, NOT the DNGs we’re converting from our Canon or Nikon RAWs. The reason I saw was because something about the file becomes proprietary at that point and the editing software has to know how to handle DNG files created from all of the different RAWs. I don’t know how true that understanding is, but I do know this: I can’t take my DNGs converted from RAW by Lightroom 4 and even browse them in AfterShot Pro, let alone import them. This tells me that by going all DNG in my workflow, I’m betting that 1) ADobe will always be around for me to use my DNG files in their software and 2) I will always want to rely on Adobe products, even if something better comes along.

      My solution: For the best consideration of compatibility, disk space workflow steps, time, etc I’m going to:
      1. Go back to importing as RAW
      2. Be less of a paranoid pack rat and delete the rejects
      3. Convert the final selections to DNG with embedded RAWs (or just keep the RAWs, haven’t decided yet).

      Everything else about my workflow (backup, archiving, etc) will remain, but I think this change will be a better hedge against being stuck with DNGs I might not be able to use later on. I love the DNG format as well, but until it is truly universal, I can’t be all-in like before. I refuse to trust even my favorite software vendor with the idea that they will fully support what they’ve said the format will be. When push comes to shove, if they go out of business or are purchased by someone else I don’t have any guarantees that DNG support will be handled with my best interest in mind. As I re-examine this, I think it is a safer bet that Canon will have my back at this point. I also know that there are tons of editors out there to support my RAWs today, but there appears to be only ONE company to support my DNGs today. I don’t want to accuse Adobe of anything underhanded, but what is their #1 priority? I would say it is to gain as many new users of their product as possible and make it harder to move to someone else’s product. So, creating a “standard” like DNG with the benefits described is clearly an effective way to do just that. I bought into DNG for and openness that does not seem to really be there. I am currently an enthusiastic user of Lightroom and believe it is the best product available today for my needs. Along with having the best product available today, I want the absolute freedom to move to a better product tomorrow. I’ve spent way too much time in the technology world to allow myself to be locked into only one product or technology for the bottom line of my business. I simply can’t afford to make that bet.

      All of that said, none of us can guarantee that Windows, Mac OS or compatibility with the installable copies of our currently licensed software. 25 years ago we had none of this in its current form. Anyone who has spreadsheets from SuperCalc on the CPM OS from 25 years ago (assuming you have them on readable media) might have a challnege in importing that data. I don’t know, I haven’t tried. Probably because the data is irrelevant to me now. The thing that is unique about us in the photography world is that our data is relevant and even sometimes critical to us forever. Sure, maybe not EVERY session we shoot has to be ready for a re-order 25 years from now, but we surely as artists are keeping a portfolio and want some key images to stand the test of time.

      I would encourage everyone to look at the big picture. For most of our sessions, we need to have them around and accessible for 5 to 7 years at best. Maybe RAW isn’t so bad because I have the freedom to at least switch editors without the world changing quite so much. I am still researching this issue and would love to see this dicussion continue. Please correct me on anything I might have stated inaccurately here.


      • Hey Doug!

        Thanks so much for commenting and sharing a great perspective! I agree that when you dig down deep into the issue it feels like there are different levels of “open”. I mean DNG is supposed to be an open format, what gives with all this incompatibility?!

        I haven’t used AfterShot Pro so I’m not familiar with how it handles DNGs. I’m surprised that it won’t even open DNGs that were converted from RAW in Lightroom. That’s bizarre. I understand why DNGs that are edited in one program don’t carry over edits to a different program, but it should at least still be possible to open and view the DNG in different programs (eg. DNGs edited in Lightoom won’t show the edits in Apple Aperture but Aperture can still open the DNG file). I figured that this would be the case across all image editors that support DNG.

        While I don’t dig the fact that Adobe is in control of the DNG standard, it is openly documented and freely licensed which means that anyone can develop software to read the DNG files. By converting to DNG I’m definitely making a bet that in the future either Adobe or some other developer will have software that decodes the DNG standard. Hopefully I’ll still be using Lightroom, but in 20 years I’ll settle for any program that can open DNGs.

        A note about camera manufacturers: Kodak is a good company to use as a case study. 20 years ago nobody would have thought a company like that could go bankrupt. Now they’re selling off most of their photographic assets. And I believe the Kodak RAW files .kdc are now widely not supported, you need to track down a converter. In 10-20 years Canon could easily be in a similar situation.

        One last point :) Even if you’re shooting DNG and using Lightroom you still have to deal with process versions being upgraded in the future. Say you processed a DNG in 2010. Well Lightroom has gone and released a new process version (2012) with Lightroom 4. Now you can continue to edit under the old process version (2010), but the new process version (2012) will produce better results. Do you leave all your photos at the old process version, or manually convert each to the newer process version? Now keep in mind this is all within the same editing program, Lightroom. And this is a problem all editing programs will have as processing technology advances. I think this changes the way you should look at editing in the future. In the future when I need to use a photo I’ve taken years ago, I’ll probably re-edit it using the most current processing version. I should point out that this problem will exist no matter whether you’re working with original RAW files or DNGs.

        Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! There’s definitely a lot to think about when trying to secure your image archive for the future. Maybe JPEG is the answer? :P

    • Hi Rob, Very valuable discussion. I am new to raw and DNG. I was hesitating to chose one. I am sceptical to switch to DNG. therefore, did a comparison between Raw and DNG. Suppriselly, after converted the NEF to DNG, no matter use Adobe’ DNG Converter or LR 5.7, the DNG photo seems darkening a little bit and had distortion as well. The later is obvious. I don’t know what cause these. Because of this I decided not switch to DNG but continue using raw.

  4. Hi Rob,

    I stand corrected on Capture One. My understanting is that there are different type of DNG (linear or not) and now even compressed. Dxo only does linear, which is not what Lightroom, Aperture or DNG converter does.

    It is a fact that a single file is much simpler to manage and most certainly counterbalance any other marginal benefits you MIGHT get otherwise. And yes, my total library is probably your weekly output, so my challenges are certainly not yours! I understand how hard the decision must have been!

    Anyways, love the blog. Keep the good work as it keeps our knowledge and perspective current .

  5. I Love DNG, I have been using a DNG workflow for over a year and love the smaller files, I shoot a d800 so any savings are a bonus! Furthermore XMP's are a hassle, I love the simplicity of DNG for my everyday workflow.

  6. This is really helpful! Thank you for doing this post.

  7. Very good post.

    I agreed that DNG is small in size. but if you are converting them just because of the support in future, i really can't convince myself for it. Lets say after 50 years, Nikon Company is gone. No more support for file captured in NEF in year 2012. I am pretty sure, either Nikon or Adobe will provide a tool for you to convert our NEF to DNG before Nikon is gone. Its never too late to convert at that time.

    However, my workflow is already in DNG. Im a event and wedding photographer. I do work with DNG but i will not convert them during import. As you know wedding or events photographer will delete about 10-15% of the photos captured. So there is no point to convert those when you know you are gona delete. I will do my importing and editing in NEF and convert those to DNG in final.

  8. You say that it makes most sense to shoot in Raw and then convert to DNG, not Jpeg to DNG. But, I didn't have my first camera that supported Raw until Dec 2010. I have thousands of photos from before then that are all Jpegs. Should I be converting those to DNG? Is it even worth it to work with Jpegs (even as DNGs), or should I just concentrate my (limited) time on working with the newer Raw files?

  9. Thanks for commenting everyone!

    @ Jack- It's hard to say how proprietary file formats will change. Even if a tool for converting is made available it could be a pretty challenging task converting an archive containing 20, 30, or 50 years worth of proprietary raw files.

    Our workflow is pretty much the same in terms of converting selects to DNG, though we don't delete any of the extra shots.

    @ Alex – You can still work with JPEGs without converting them to DNG. I would say it's still worth working with your JPEGs if they're shots you like.

    When you're working with raw files (original raw files, or raw files that you've converted to DNG) you have more flexibility with the adjustments (because of larger file sizes, more image data).

    When you convert a JPEG to DNG you're still working with the compressed JPEG image data. So you don't gain any increase in image quality by converting JPEGs to DNG.

    So you might have more fun working with your newer raw files since you should be able to produce better quality edits with them.

  10. It was very frustrating to me that Nikon View (admittedly an D200 era) crashed when I tried to import RAW files from a newer camera (D7000). So, if Nikon can't even keep their own NEF files consistent, I doubt if DNG will be either.

  11. I started using DNG after I bought my D7000. I use CS4 and Adobe hasn't (won't) provide the needed upgrades. I can't justify upgrading for this purpose only so I have been using their DNG Converter. It freezes from time to time but what can you do? It has just become part of my workflow and I will likely stay with it even if I upgrade in the future.

  12. I started using DNG after I bought my D7000. I use CS4 and Adobe hasn't (won't) provide the needed upgrades. I can't justify upgrading for this purpose only so I have been using their DNG Converter. It freezes from time to time but what can you do? It has just become part of my workflow and I will likely stay with it even if I upgrade in the future.

  13. One thing I found about converting RAW images to DNG is that the files don’t get smaller if you shot Canon’s sRAW or mRAW sizes. They actually get larger. From what I’ve read, it appears that the sRAW and mRAW formats are compressed and when you convert them to DNG, they get uncompressed.

  14. Let this be a warning – don’t convert to DNG. There is no upside but there is a downside.

    Firstly, why bother? You have the raw files at hand – are you so limited for storage space that you need a slightly smaller file?

    Next, be aware that the best image sharpener around, viz. Dxo Optics Pro does not process converted DNG files. As I found to my cost, after erasing the orginal raw files! It does process some DNGs OOC e.g. Samsung DNGs from my old GX10 camera but that’s it.

    Wish I knew this before I converted and erased the orginal raw files (DNGS are supposed to be the same as the orginal file only smaller, so why would you keep the original raw files once you have converted?)

    • Hey James!

      Thanks for sharing your experience with DxO and DNGs. As I mentioned in the article a few reasons why we like the DNG format are the smaller files size (adds up over hundreds of thousands of images), the integration of xmp data (no sidecar files), and the embedded file verification is a nice archival feature.

      That said I can see how frustrating it must be to not be able to open the DNG file using DxO, especially if it offers superior sharpening. It’s been a while since I’ve used DxO and I hadn’t realized they dropped support for the DNG format. I’m interested to find out more about why support was dropped. Obviously if third party software producers like DxO are dropping support for DNG that’s not great news – as it does limit the number of editors you could possibly use on your files.

      Thanks again for bringing this up!

      • Hey James,

        I was thinking about the problem you brought up yesterday. Another thing I suppose you could try is exporting your DNGs as TIFF files. I don’t think you’ll lose any quality in the conversion, and then you should be able to open the TIFF files in DxO.

  15. At the end of the article you mention that there may be some issues with early DNG. What is gonna guarantee that today’s DNG won’t have issues with compatibility in the future?

    I will hold off for a while until all this gets sorted out. May be till Nikon support DNG on their cameras.

    The way I see it, Nikon should be around for long while more. And I know adobe will always support new cameras as long as Nikon is around.

    If something goes wrong with Nikon and they stop support to their RAW files its pretty sure to say that they will announce it or somebody will reported. At that moment the latest software to that date will definitely support your files, giving you a chance to change the file format.

    I’m really hoping for a standard format. But for now I will just keep an eye on the development of this. I read there still some issues with DNG which is no good for a format that is supposed to standardize everything

  16. James Behnke says

    I’m a hobbyist and “serious family photographer” who started converting all of my Panasonic LX-5-generated RAW files into .dng in order to avoid the need to keep two libraries; one of RAW files for editing, and one of JPEGS for distribution and storage in a universally accepted format.

    I’ve revisited the whole .dng question when I (like one of the previous posters here) discovered that Corel Aftershot could not read my .dng files. That freaked me out a bit, and I’m annoyed that I can’t try Aftershot unless I want much of my recent library to be inaccessible and un-editable.

    I’ll probably stick with .dng, however, since I’m starting to recall how much of a pain it was to effectively manage and update things like keywords in what for me was essentially two separate libraries (one for RAW originals and one for the “published”, more universally compatible JPEG versions); one of the reasons that I use “professional” level editing software is for the superior organization capabilities that they afford, and I like the fact that (to the best of my knowledge) metadata like keywords can be written directly into .dng and JPEG files as opposed to “sidecar” files which can be lost or won’t be able to be read by other archiving programs.

  17. Thanks for the good advice – having to convert my 5D mk III files to DNG’s to use in Lightroom 2.7

  18. I guess I’m a little confused as I am new to this whole process. If you are converting raw files to dng is their a need to conver the dng to jpeg? Or does the dng act like a jpeg in that it can be uploaded online, etc.



  19. I’ve been using DNG as my primary storage for over a year now but I’ve just started using DXO for Raw conversion – very pleased with the results it gets from ARW files out of my NEX-7 but DXO appears not to be able to read DNG format – I guess the deficiency is with DXO rathe than the concept of a standard Raw format but it is a bit of a disappointment.

  20. DXO is a wonderful tool and I use in in preference to Lightroom, however I wish it would read DNG files, lets all contact DXO and see if in the near future they are going to add this feature, maybe they are all ready working on it. They do seem to be a software company that want to give us photographers the tools we need to work with. I personally give there software 10 out of 10, it does a fantastic job in the work I am doing.

  21. I don’t really understand why everyone is so worried about compatibility. I have raw files from Canon as that’s what I shoot and even if Canon goes out of business, I’ll be smart enough to keep with the files a program that I can open them in 50 years. If I want I can open Lotus Esprit on my virtual machine after 20+ years so why not CR2 in the future? 7 billion people, cloud and immediate access to most resources. I’m not really sure what is behind this but 10% of space is nothing and not worth the time and effort. Original is original and no matter what they promise, I’ll stay sceptic and keep my raw files.

    PS if you’ve purchased Lightroom its also yours to use indefinitely for as long as you have your installation file, you’ll be able to open all the formats. Keep calm and keep your raw files.

    Jedi master

  22. Thank you for this article! It’s something I have been wondering about. I recently tried converting to DNG upon importing but I was concerned when I didn’t see any xmp files alongside my images. I thought the DNG must not be as good without it. Thanks for setting me straight! I’m a believer! :)

  23. David Ramirez says


    First thanks for your time and this amazing blog, it becomes a first-hand resource in many situations.
    A simple question after reading about album design, How do you do with .dng and indesign? is any way to convert into a proper file to work with?

    thanks again

    • Hi David!

      You’ll need to export the DNGs as jpegs before you can work with them in InDesign. Hopefully future versions of InDesign will support DNG!

  24. Awesome article! It’s something I’ve been wondering about. I’ve converted all my sessions from the last couple weeks, including this one:

  25. Hi , new reader of this website:)

    I shoot raw and i treat is at a negative, and as long Nikon doesnt use dng in a camera of theres i wont be changing my ways regardles of the benefits of dng format.

    I honestly dont see dng as more or less future proof than raw, and as long there is only adobe that work with implementing new iteration of dng im sceptical.

    I think the best way is to store your raw files and treat dng as way of working with raw files but dont delete the raw files is my advice.

  26. Hi – I’ve just entered a competition and the rules ask for the original raw file to be available, this is a good reason to keep the raw files, I’ve imported all images into Lightroom 4 and am not sure if LR4 keeps the raw files somewhere ?

    • Hey Roger, you should be able to submit a DNG file for the competition (I’d love to know what competition would not allow you to submit a DNG in place of an original raw file).

      Lightroom will organize your original raw photos by dated folders in your computers default photo folder, unless you specify a different location to save the files when you’re importing them. Hope this helps!

      • Peter sumpter says

        Hi rob, I have just come across a competition with those exact rules in here

        I have contacted them to ask why and am awaiting a response, I have been converting to DNG for years as I love having one file that holds my metadata and keywords. Never had any issues with this file format until I wanted to enter this competition.

      • Adam Mitchell says

        This is the case with most of the major competitions, such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year. They want to check that not modifications have been made to the original image other than those the rules permit. I made the mistake of converting to DNG and not embedding the original RAW (and deleting the original RAW) for a few months after getting a new camera and I unfortunately now have some photos I can’t enter into (some) competitions.

  27. I have been using a DNG workflow for years, using LR3/4/5 as my main RAW converter. I resently tried Capture One 7 and am getting great results. Howver while CO7 does support DNG files, the support are not optimised for specific cameras. As a result of this automatic lens corrections and optimized sharpening depending on camera type, only works with the original RAW-file.

    My conclusion is that I will in the future keep my original RAW-files since they produce much higher quality when used with CO. I the case of CO you will be limited if you have already converted to DNG.

  28. Hey Rob,

    Great article! I just recently started converting NEFs to DNGs, and noticed that my 16-bit NEF files when converted to DNG (on import via lightroom) is only 12-bit. I’m not sure if that’s really how it works but is there a way to convert to DNG at 16-bit (or same size as the original NEF file)?


  29. I read the whole thread. It brings me to this question. What is more important 25 years from now. The way you edited the pictures, or the different ways you did it
    (virtual copies), or the picture content itself. Are you going to re-edit your file in 10 years from now. Means that you should preserve your editing program, database ou xmp, if you want to start from the work you did. I am rather thinking archiving my files in a more ‘”universal” format jpg or 16 bit tiff. Of course, not as good for modification but more likely to be still there in 50 years from now, readable by all, or easy to convert to whathever new file formats or medias that will be there at that time. Keeping my raw or dng for editing and not worrying much about not being to open them is 25 years.

  30. Hello Rob. Read your review on DNG very interesting indeed!
    Makes a heck of a lotta scenes, i will be taking your advice and converting
    my raw to DNG from now on. I do have a question about after converting
    into DNG. Can I view my photos on windows 7 fax viewer or do I now have to take
    Steps to down size to tiffs, or jpeg from the DNG files. Or could you recommend a good program that would work. Don’t know also
    if labs will accept DNG files for printing. I know they will accept tiffs and
    Jpegs. Thanks for the great review!
    All the best Mike.

  31. Interesting discussion. I came across this blog while researching DNG workflow.
    I shoot Nikon, my old workflow was shoot raw, edit selected images in Capture NX2, save in a folder called processed raw and then save as jpg in a jpg folder for printing. Backup is automatic every 30 minutes to two other drives. All original raw files are kept. Storage is cheap these days.

    With the demise of NX2, this does create a problem, I now need to change w/f, I use Photoshop Elements with ACR. Problem here as with other programs is will Windows 20, to be released eventually, still run the current editing programs? I do have old programs that will not run on Windows 7.

    Same with hardware. How many motherboards these days have ports for 3 1/2 ” floppy drives? Will usb sticks still be available in 20 years time?

    My thoughts are to save processed raw files as psd.


  32. Here is my main concern. A DNG, converted from one program, is not compatible with all programs. When you can change programs, it opens the base DNG and does not know how to read the added data from the original software. The data is written to the file directly. If you have a DNG from one program and open it in a different program, The “new” program does nothing with the written data from the “old” program and starts to write, per that software. This may cause conflicts in the “writable” portion of the file. This opens up file corruption issues. I will keep my raw file. I may have to re-edit the side car file, but I still have my original image. We all have discs of older programs (I.E. Lightroom 4) in a draw somewhere. I would rather take a thousand hours of LR 4 to DNG conversion when Nikon or Cannon fold than to explain to my wife that corrupted DNG files have removed the birth of my son from existence. Just to save 10% on file size?

  33. Thanks for this article and all the comments shared here.
    There appears to be still a lot of arguments surrounding the pros and cons of using DNG. It seems DNG still would not 100% solve the problem of compatibility, backward compatibility, or cross-compatibility. There is still no format that can be as long-lasting and true-universality as I would like to be. To put in philosophical sense: nothing is permanent, the only constant is change, all things and sentient beings are impermanent. The existence of digital pictures/files formats despite all the efforts put in by its creators, are still only a fleeting blink in the vast flow of time.

    To maintain my work, seems I have to work constantly to keep up and juggle with these file formats. As for now, I’ll just stick with backing up the backups, in different formats, repeat every few years, and pass on the knowledge to the next generation. Not going to worry too much about storage: One thing seems certain is that storage is getting cheaper faster than file sizes are getting larger faster; referring to Moore’s Law. Until there is better more “permanent” storage options comes along.

  34. I’m sticking with RAW.

    I can’t imagine taking even more time to import into Lightroom. It takes long enough in RAW.

    As an advanced amateur I find myself frequently going back to my old images and re-editing them as I learn new skills. Therefore I like the ability to reset the file and edit it new again.

    I also think that it’s a silly argument to suggest that the nef format won’t be upwardly compatible in the future.

    The xmp files are seamless and never are a bother.

    Thanks for the article.

  35. I still find it difficult to believe that there are no loss of quality when converting. If lightroom one day decides to only work with DNG – it will be a smooth “plug in converter “to solve any issue

  36. I frank don’t like the look of Nikon NEF photos as they appear in Lightroom 5 (2014) after converting them to DNG. The original NEF files look much clearer, sharper, and more like the images I’m used to seeing when shoot JPEG at 13MP with a Nikkor 35/1.8 on a Nikon D3300 – in other words, extremely sharp, very clear and vibrant.

  37. Thanks for the details about DNG. Last week I got a Canon 7D mark ii. Lightroom 4.4 cannot read these RAW files and has no plans to support. They want me to upgrade my software. I was stuck! Someone told me about DNG. Now I’m a convert. I’m not a pro and cannot justify the Adobe CC perpetual fees.

  38. DNG from 2004, How long after, I realized it from your post. Oh! how much there is to learn. Thanks Rob many thanks.

  39. I swear by DNG.

    Never intend on getting burnt by Aperture again!

    Good article thanks!

  40. This whole DNG issue is just a red herring. I went down this route about 6 years ago, converted my whole catalogue, but for what gain? Well in my experience as a professional photographer there is nothing to gain except for a little bit of disk space, and we all know that hard disk space is super-cheap anyway. BUT in my case I found that there was alot to lose – mainly in the extra time and processor overheads when conversion happens.

    And some of the claimed ‘issues’ with RAW simply do not exist in my opinion… I mean who ever heard of an xmp file getting ‘separated’ from the RAW? How would that happen in the real world? That’s what software like Lightroom is for, managing raw files and metadata. I hardly ever even look at an xmp file in my file browser, let alone separate it from the folder where it belongs!

    And the compatibility issue – well to me it seems like by far the best option to have MAXIMUM compatibility NOW in the present day, so I can use whatever software I like to edit / view my images that are current. RAW files are the best for this, as highlighted by many of the comments above. Of course no one knows what will happen in the future, what standards / formats will be supported. But that is just as true of the DNG format as any proprietary RAW format (and especially so if you are using Nikon or Canon). You also have to realise that if your chosen image editing software / library management tool ceases to support your raw file format then at that point you will be able to do something about it and make a choice in a way that makes sense at that moment, rather than a moment back in 2004 when adobe dreamed up this DNG format.

    I have to say that ‘fast load data’ to speed up the loading of images in the develop module is an appealing idea but I have run some (admittedly unscientific) tests and can’t see any difference in real time usage. This may be different if you are running LR on a slower computer.

    So all in all, having used the format for some years and subsequently having kept track of developments in the format ever since, I have simply not heard any convincing reason to use the DNG format.

  41. I’m one of that small minority using Pentax, and fortunately with the Pentax cameras you can shoot in .DNG. If I had to convert all my images from one of the proprietary formats, I’d probably be like Seth and others above and not bother. Too time-consuming.

    • Great thread! Just tried lightroom for few days and thanks for the discussion.
      10 yrs back i tried to save space by converting my family videos… compared to the originals on a cheap screen and thought why the waste of space for original files… 5 years later when i could afford better cameras and monitors…i wanted to cry out loudly many many times… i would never ever forgive me had touched or will be touching the originals.

  42. Hi Rob,

    Thank you for this article. I can agree with you on several points, but I don’t get the point why to convert RAW to DNG right now. I mean DNG converters will get better over time and Computers will get faster. So if I convert my images to DNG today I will loose IQ. So why not wait until it’s necessary?


    • Hey Steve,

      Thanks for your comment. I think the wait-and-see approach can work, but it’s kind of pain in my opinion. I have a growing library of photos taken with many different types of cameras. In the future it will be tough to keep track of what raw files are no longer compatible and need to be converted to DNG. The other reason to use DNG now is for the integrated file verification. Unless you’re using some other file verification software to ensure your archive of raw files is secure, then DNG is the best option. (Using Lightroom you’ll find the option to validate DNGs in the Library module, under the Library menu).

      And one more thing: you don’t lose image quality when you convert to DNG.

  43. Sujeet Deshpande says

    I understand the advantages of converting to DNG format. We already have TIFF format as well. I would like to understand what would be a better approach? TIFF or DNG?


  44. My biggest issue is that converting to DNG loses the original shot’s date/time when browsing in Windows Explorer (at least in Lightroom and I’m still on Lightroom 4.x due to a license key issue). When I have the RAW files I can see what date/time they were taken and recover that through FastStone Image Viewer. I lose both capabilities with DNG, even with the RAW file embedded. Why would I want hundreds of files from a shoot to all have the same date/time?

  45. Hi, When I export a file from Lightroom in DNG, I can not open it afterwards. I have Windows 8.1 and new to it, and my photos in open in Windows Photo Viewer, and have tried opening them in other options, but no luck. I am starting my photography business and shooting friends at the moment, and downloading photos onto cd. From what I gather, editing my photos in raw, then exporting them with jpeg 100% quality should be okay. I have yet to print photos off to see how they look in print.

  46. Hi, I still use Lightroom 2 and recently bought the Canon 750d. LR2 can’t import the raw pictures, so I now installed the conversion program from Adobe. However I now end up with 3 files for each picture: the original CR2, then the DNG version of Adobe and lastly the DNG version of importing in lightroom. I imagine this can be done more efficient?

  47. Thank you for the article!
    Without intending to, I somehow changed my settings so that Lightroom converts all CR2 to DNG upon import. Before turning it off, I decided to get my Google on and find out whether it was something I should leave in place or turn off. After reading your article and understanding all the benefits of DNG I have decided to continue converting my images to DNG, although I may have to change my workflow to convert only selects because it really does take quite a while to convert all images!

  48. Con O Doherty says

    Hi Guys & Gals,
    My take on d situation is that we’re looking at d ‘Overview’ of DNG mixed up between a technical Perspective & a more ‘Commercial’ understanding:
    All companies, Adobe, MS, Apple, Capture 1 etc want to max out their earnings. They push theur ‘Format’ as hard as they can.
    The companies with d broadest appeal to d largest User Base are gonna largely win d war eventually.
    This is d motive behind Adobe’s DNG offering. All the other ‘Camera’ Companies wish their RAW Software was used by everybody else, they are jockying 4 position in a crowded marketplace.
    From my own experimentation & some good articles it seems to me that using d latest version of d Camera Manufacturers RAW Converters give d ‘Very Best’ results for their own RAW Format, .CR2, NEF, ARW etc. In other words by using your camera’s latest RAW software U will pull out some tiny detail Better than Adobe’s DNG Format can do with d same file.
    I’ve satisfied myself enough to prove it to myself in reality without ‘having an opinion’ on it. It is factually true for me.
    Adobe’s DNG is almost always just that little bit behind d latest version of each Camera Makers RAW Updated software(occasionally Adobe RAW/DNG do get parity-but only bcos Adobe puts big efforts into trying to ‘out guess’ d Manufacturers). Look at how Adobe created the PDF Format for multiple other file forms. PDF is undoubtedly the premier form for d vast majority of files ‘Out There’.
    My own solution is to use Adobe DNG even tho l can get a tiny bit more quality out of d CR2 & SONY RAWs with Canon’s & Sony’s own RAW converters.
    When l’m importing into LR l do convert to DNG, Keywording as l go, but l also backup d Native RAWs & d JPEGs to an external drive as well as keeping a copy on my SD/CF card(these are so cheap nowadays that l’ve plenty of em without having to spend ‘Mad Money’).
    I edit my ‘Keepers’ in Adobe RAW DNGs as normal. If l come across a photo that is particularly good & l feel it cud be improved on l sometimes go back & Dig up the original RAW File & use d latest Canon/SONY RAW software to get that tiny bit more out of it. In practice this rarely happens as it’s much more time consuming & is usually not worth the effort.
    When l’m finished editing my ‘Keepers’ & a few others that cud be improved at a later date l dump the remainder off my PCs & also the poorer files(Non possible future Keepers) from my backup drives.
    Unfortunately l seem to shoot a lot more ‘Lower Quality’ images than most people bcos l end up only keeping about 25% of my shots! But that’s probably bcos a lot of people are better photographers than l am(tho l’m on a Life-long quest to improve).
    1 of the other reasons l shoot so much is that l learn from my ‘Bad’ images as well as from my ‘Keepers’.
    To summarise my position is as follows: I import my RAWs as DNGs & my JPEGs as JPEGs. I backup all my files(incl JPEGs) to an external drive & leave d originals on d SD/CF Card(4 small shoots l sometimes aggregate different cards together) as a secondary backup.
    Then l Cull my images from the imported DNGs. I edit these and save em on my PC, Laptop, Backup drive.
    I then leave only all d original Images alone on d backup drive, just in case someone likes or asks 4 a particular image that is not on my site or in my online Portfolio. This happens very rarely & as l learn more about Photography/Myself l erase more & more each year.
    Having everything worth keeping in DNG & JPEG Format makes it simple for me to supply a JPEG or TIFF File(converted from the DNG) to any interested party.
    The biggest downside for me is that Windows File Explorer will only show images of the JPEGS & TIFFs so l loose a bit of ‘Fluidity’ & often end up using Adobe Bridge for viewing purposes when Windows File Explorer is my preferred means of managing my entire Digital World. It’s a reasonable trade off as l present my ‘Stuff’ as JPEGs originally with the DNGs alongside since these can be read by any PC Type & then l can easily dig out d DNG/Original Raw/TIFF file if someone’s interested enough.
    Great discussion to have read above as l learned a good bit from it.

  49. Lucy Flores says

    Hi iam starting with my canon camara but when its to revelate them i cant see them ,i havent been able to see them in the computer why is that happening i see them in my camara i will like to share them with the people and friends how can i do that hope you can help me thanks

  50. Hi, I just wonder if we convert the original raw data (.cr, .nef, .arw, etc.) into DNG files, these DNG files can not be used in the in-camera imaging pipeline of the cameras (canon, nikon, sony, etc), then how can we obtain the .JPEG images in a way under the camera model (canon, nikon, sony, etc)? For example, the .arw files can be modified in the Image Data Converter software provided by Sony. BUT! The DNG files can not be modified by the Image Data Converter software, then we can only get the final JPEG images by our own imaging pipeline or pipelines provided by Adobe, not the Sony camera model. And in fact, we wanna the JPEG images provided by the Sony camera model, and we only want modify the raw files (.arw). Maybe we can use the Image Data Converter software, but if we wanna more improvements by Lightroom or other software, we can only convert the raw data into DNG files. The problem is we cannot convert the DNG files back to raw data (.arw). How to deal with this case?

  51. Enzo Silva says


    I’ve seen some articles about people stopping the conversion of RAW to DNG.
    They say the file loses camera info, say, when opening with apps like Capture One. And the image loses the camera-specific riches of detail.

    Any thoughts on that?

    Just Google why I stopped using DNG to see what some are saying.

    Currently I have a bunch of NEF and AWR files I want toconvert due to the benefits you listed above but want to make sure no richness of detail is lost from the original RAW files.

  52. Great article! I personally prefer RAW over DNG and I never convert native RAW to DNG. AfterShot Pro supports all RAW formats and when I need to deal with DNG I use this:

  53. Are you still converting to DNG these days? Just curious as I just converted a lot of NEF files to DNG files (and deleted the NEFs) but now am second guessing my decision. I would love to get an update on this topic from you.

  54. Rifat Mahmud says

    Thanks a lot for describe it briefly. I was mistaking by using my original raw format. But now I think i may overcome that fault. Really appreciate that blog of yours. Its really helped new photographer like me.

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